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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Up in Smoke: 1919

Up in Smoke: 1919

New York circa 1919. The producer, playwright and director Stuart Walker, who had a long career in theater and film, spending a quiet night at home tossing scripts into the fire. George Grantham Bain Collection glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

NOT a swastika.

The swastika is made from four backward 7s (an easy way to remember) but what you see in the pictures is, among other things, is a Native American symbol representing the thunderbird. NOTE: made from forward 7s.

[Incorrect. Swastikas can go either way; the Native American symbol is also a swastika. - Dave]

Pristine fireplace

That's the most sparkling-clean fireplace I've ever seen. Any thoughts on whether this was a new home, a seldom-used fireplace, or whether Walker's housekeeper spent her days scrubbing bricks and mortar?

My mom has a large decorative garden urn which has been in her family since the 1920s and is decorated with swastikas. Needless to say, we've always felt it prudent to keep it in a spot where casual acquaintances don't see it.

[That might be asbestos board painted to look like bricks. - Dave]


Max Bialystock searches for the perfect flop...

Use of The Swastika

was so very common in design and in marketing. The Ladies Home Journal had a mail-in "Swastika Club" for young girls in 1910. Members got a swastika badge and materials teaching good homemaking practices. I think that the magazine had a monthly column aimed at members.

A little about the swastika

The swastika exists in more cultures than just Native American or Hindu. Further, it's not so much that the Nazis were into paganism, but that they borrowed signs of power from a variety of cultures to symbolize and encourage their own power. The swastika and double lightning bolts, as examples, are symbologically memorable and strong, which is why they appealed to the Nazis. Further, the Nazis altered the symbols slightly to make them *more* powerful and unique to themselves, such as turning the swastika 45 degrees so that it appears to spin, and the arms are going clockwise. There's a fascinating chapter about who chose which symbols for the Nazi party, and why, in the book Dictionary of Symbols.

Floor covering design

The kitchen floor covering in my grandmother's old home was factory printed with swastika symbols. I think it was installed in the 1920's.

Navajo Rug

The one poster was exactly right that this is a Navajo rug woven by hand using wool from sheep raised by the family and probably mostly natural dyes. It would be worth a couple thousand dollars in today's market, swastikas notwithstanding.

They Runed It

It's very sad, the way the Nazis usurped the swastika. The Nazis were very much into paganism, and used many pagan runes for their symbols as well.

"Good Luck" Swastikas

Stuart Walker's hearth rug is a nice tourist-quality Navajo wool rug of the sort that could be purchased in Santa Fe train station gift shops throughout the Southwest, as well as in East Coast department stores. From about 1895 to about 1930, Native American swastikas were a popular mainstream American "Good Luck" symbol, and were often paired with horseshoe and even shamrock motifs as good luck charms. Americans were also familiar with the many Chinese "Good Luck" swastikas seen on imported carpets, wood carvings and vases.

During this period the silversmiths Daniel Low & Co., of Salem, Mass., manufactured thousands of small sterling silver swastika charms for bracelets, earrings, pins and watch fobs, which sold quite well in Low's mail-order catalogs. Almost all American "Good Luck" swastikas disappeared with the start of World War II, and the terrible meaning of the Nazi swastika has erased these harmless "Good Luck" swastikas from our collective memory.


It's almost certainly a Native American, probably Navajo, rug. I'm pretty sure the design in the center part is still used on them. And yes, if it was still around 20 years later that rug probably went in the fire, too.

Interesting Swastikas....

There are Swastika's in each corner of the carpet and the main emblem looks like a derivative. I wonder if it is an East Indian rug.

Unfortunate design

The first thing I noticed were the swastikas on the rug, but then I noticed the date in the caption. Strange how history can change the way we view things that were once commonplace.

Now I know

Now I know why I never was published. What can I say?

I love the swastika

I love the swastika rug.....must be from Asia, and is a symbol of good fortune since Nazis came later.

Are they Swastikas?

When one gets as old as I am, one's brain file is so crammed full of facts that we tend to be unable to remember things we learned. I do know that I did learn about the origin of the swastika, but in 1919 it was not yet a Nazi symbol. It might have been an early American Indian symbol but it had a different meaning than it does now. Also, that is not a very safe fireplace, it is an accident waiting to happen. Maybe he was destroying manuscripts he disliked since shredders were not yet invented.

Lucky rug

Notice the swastikas on the rug, which were considered good luck symbols and certainly ubiquitous before its subsequent notoriety.

Nice swastikas

Producer, playwright, director... and Nazi? Or is this a case of the older, perhaps Hindu, use of the symbol?

Carpet For Sale

Twenty years or so later, the Indian patterns on his rug would mean something so very different!

What's with

What's with the swastika rug design Adolf??

Interesting rug

Looks like an Indian rug from the Southwest. Those aren't swastikas, they're the four corners of the universe, I think. Or the Navajo called it the "whirling winds".

Fireside rug motif

..very interesting!

Interesting Indian Rug

Very interesting geometric designs on that rug, especially at the corners. Otherwise, it seems like a pleasant homey scene.

How cozy.

Interesting motif on the fireside rug.

Decorating Faux Pas

Guess that rug wouldn't be a popular home decor accessory in a few years from when this picture was taken, all thanks to a certain bunch of Germans... It's amazing how many people think the swastika originated with the Nazis.

Odd Choice of Rug for a New York Playwright

Am I really the first one to comment on the swastikas on this rug?

They are backwards swastikas (I think). They predate the Nazi era by at least 15-20 years.

I think I heard something about the swastika being an American Indian symbol for peace or something.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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